Regional

Libyan rebels seek up to $3 bln in foreign loans to hold out

BENGHAZI, Libya: Libya’s rebel leadership expects foreign powers to lend it $2 billion to $3 billion secured against frozen Libyan state assets held abroad, a rebel finance official said Tuesday.

Libya’s economy depends almost entirely on oil and the rebels have struggled to revive crude exports since taking control of the east of the country from Moammar Gadhafi in February, leaving them low on funds.

Ali Tarhouni, who heads the rebel national council’s finance committee, said the rebels were spending between 50 million to 100 million Libyan dinars ($43 million-86 million) per day.

“The liquidity that we have domestically most likely will carry us at this rate for three weeks or at the most four weeks,” Tarhouni said.

He expected foreign governments such as France, Italy and the United States to extend the lines of credit and the money should arrive within a week to ten days.

“I need about $2 billion to $3 billion and we are hoping to get most or all of this,” Tarhouni told reporters in the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi. “That will last me for three months.”

With Libya’s economy in tatters after more than two months of civil war, funds to pay for food, medicine and the state salaries on which most of the population depends are running low.

The insurgents had been hoping for a swift overthrow of Gadhafi, but his better-trained and better-equipped militias halted the rebel advance west and forced a stalemate in the fighting that could last months.

“We are still discovering different segments that need to be paid that we thought were paid,” said Tarhouni. “At every single moment another need arises in terms of food, medicine and in terms of people who are injured.”

Fuel supplies, vital to eastern towns in order to maintain the military campaign against Gadhafi, are also tight.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 04, 2011, on page 5.

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